Thursday, May 4, 2017

Learning about the "container" metaphor

Learning from the Befriender history.

"My proposal was not accepted immediately or readily. I needed the approval of the Hospital Auxiliary, nursing service, and the medical staff."

The administrator rejected the first request to visit patients with trained story listeners. His reason, "we are only concerned about what takes place within these four walls." I was inviting people from the community, non professionals, to participate in patient care. That was in 1966. Now in 2017 and after a lot of study and reflection on how metaphors function in language his reply is a classic example of the deep metaphor "container." Fortunately a few doors and windows have been installed since. This is a story that remains to be told.

I had heard the "container" in parish life in a different way. "We have never done it that way before." I had wanted to do lay ministry training in the parishes and missions that I had served the nine years before becoming a hospital chaplain. My success was very low. My beginning had been written out in a paper I wrote my senior year in seminary, "The Ministry of the Whole Church." I am still working on that Baptismal paper and the outcomes appear in various forms. My beginning methodology in that paper has been confirmed, modified but still intact.

At the present time the "container" is getting a lot of press in how we treat immigrants. The desire of some to build a "wall" is another text book classic of this deep metaphor. The involved vetting process and targeting specifics joins the cluster around "container."

I am very sensitive to the implications of the "wall" and resistance to openness. Recently my sensitivities became an awareness when the local newspaper had a story about how people from Germany were treated prior to and during WW1. My mother encountered the "container" as a student in elementary school. Her first language was German. She lived on a farm near Tipton, Iowa. The Krienbrings had settled around Louden as immigrants, a German community. An Iowa law was passed in 1910 prohibiting speaking German. She was traumatized to the point of never using German words around her children or even wanting to talk about it. I was the oldest son and I did try to learn more about this. The subject was closed. The only time she spoke German was at the family reunions when German was still spoken by the older members of the family. The men played cards and drank their beer. The women talked and the cousins had fun playing games. My grandfather did teach me one phrase in German, "work makes living sweet." There is an ending to this about laziness which I did not bother to learn.

A classmate in seminary, 19952-5, George Hayashi had been in the Japanese Internment Camp in California during WW11. I had read about the sociology studies in college but now I was meeting a person who lived through the experience. Not good. The "container" appears in a number of ways.

I am going to be reflecting on "scapegoating" as a form of "container." Metaphors allow for all kinds of connecting as I will continue to demonstrate. They are language in motion, fluid, filled with feeling and meaning.

Befriending and story metaphor listening help counter the "container" metaphor by demonstrating other metaphors from the seven deep metaphors.  

I am open for comments. How have you encountered the "container" way of thinking and living? Do you have a story of when your container became more open?

Marlin Whitmer
retired hospital chaplain

Today the blog may becoming operation and I am on a learning curve.

No comments:

Post a Comment